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Tuesday, 31 December, 2002, 13:14 GMT
Mark Hughes
Mark Hughes
Rarely does the name of a manager or coach appear on the shortlist for the Wales Sports Personality of the year - but this has been a special year for Mark Leslie Hughes.

John Toshack was the last manager to win the award after guiding Swansea City to the First Division in 1981.

And now Hughes, who remarkably never won the award despite a glittering playing career, has emerged as a strong contender after a year of inconceivable success as Wales manager.

Under his astute guidance, Wales have made the biggest leap of all nations up the official world rankings.

Wales results in 2002
At the beginning of the year, the team was languishing in 100th place in the Fifa rankings.

But after an unbeaten seven-match run in 2002, Wales have shot up 48 places to 52nd.

The results are even more remarkable considering the quality of the opposition Wales faced, and what had come before.

Only a year ago, Hughes was actually on the brink of leading Wales to their worst-ever run of results.

But a 1-0 win against Belarus brought to an end the 12-match streak without a win - and the team has not looked back since.

Friendly matches brought draws with Argentina, the Czech Republic and Croatia, and a memorable win over Germany.

Mark Hughes congratulates Rob Earnshaw after he scores the winner against Germany
Hughes has a special rapport with the players
Next up were the opening matches of the Euro 2004 qualifying campaign; and the now supremely confident Wales beat Finland, Italy and Azerbaijan.

Three wins out of three, nine points out of nine, and sitting proudly on top of Group Nine.

Even during the difficult times in 2001, the players never stopped believing in Hughes.

The respect shown towards him has always been immense.

But now, Hughes has managed to convince the players to start believing in themselves - and that has made all the difference.

With so much achievement from the dug-out, it is all too easy to forget Hughes was still finding success on the field in 2002.

He added a Worthington Cup winners medal to his extensive collection with a typically determined display for Blackburn Rovers.

And how fitting it was that his final achievement as a player would come at the home of Welsh football, Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

Hughes retired as a player, aged 38, in July, and the Football Association of Wales wasted little time in securing his services on a full-time basis.

Nothing but success and plaudits have followed.

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales Sport's Ian Gwyn Hughes
"Hughes has grown in stature as a manager"
BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year 2002

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See also:

16 Oct 02 | Features
20 Nov 02 | Wales
16 Oct 02 | Wales
07 Sep 02 | Wales
21 Aug 02 | Football
14 May 02 | Germany
27 Mar 02 | World Cup 2002
13 Feb 02 | World Cup 2002
Links to more Wales stories are at the foot of the page.


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